Are religious people mentally and physically healthy? Or is religion a sign of neurosis and an ineffective coping mechanism employed by immature persons? The usual thinking in the scientific community has been that religion has a negative effect on mental and physical health. But a small group of researchers has begun to disprove that. David Larson, a senior research consultant with the National Institute for Healthcare Research, has published more than 130 articles on the subject and claims much of the popular thinking about this matter is skewed by prejudice against religion. During his training as a psychiatrist he had been told repeatedly that religion was harmful to one’s mental health. But as he began the research for clinical data to support those statements he found exactly the opposite—that religion was highly beneficial in more than 80% of the cases he researched. Among the things he found:
1. Men who went to church and liked it had much lower blood pressures than men who didn’t go to church and didn't care about religion.
2. Church attendance, prayer, and the social support available in church were frequently found to be positive factors in helping patients with mental or physical health problems.
3. If people are experiencing a crisis, faith in God promotes their ability to cope.
4. Religiously committed people not only have much lower divorce rates, but their level of satisfaction and enjoyment of marriage is quite high.
Notice the emphasis upon “faith in God” and religious commitment.” That part is important. For instance, one study has shown that those who handle the fear of death best are either people who are convinced there is no God or people who strongly believe in God. Those who have religious beliefs but rarely go to church are more fearful of dying. That reminds me of the words of Jesus to the Laodician Church (Revelation 3:16): “Because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” The point of both Scripture and research seems to be that, yes, religion can be dangerous to your health, if it isn’t taken seriously. I have been told all my life by godly leaders that the most miserable person in the world is the person who has one foot in the world and another in the church. He is too spiritually inhibited to enjoy his sin but too distracted by the world to enjoy his faith. No wonder Jesus prefers spiritually cold people over the spiritually lukewarm. But more than either is His love for and appreciation of those who are “hot in their faith.” Let's go all out for Him. That’s what He expects, and, besides, it’s good for your health.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship